Why is my dog refusing their food? + Tips to help get back on track!
Posted on April 14 2022
A very popular question I see in our inbox and many raw feeding Facebook groups is: my dog has stopped eating their raw dog food, why???!!!
The first thing to rule out is any health issues. If you find that your dog is refusing their food while also showing other symptoms like lethargy/fatigue, digestive issues, drooling, uncharacteristic behaviour changes etc. A visit to the vet may be needed.
Assuming your dog is healthy, below are a number of reasons why your dog might be refusing their food and actions you can take to help.
Lack of Variety
How would you feel if you were fed the same thing, day in and out? I would imagine not great. Like humans, dogs need variety both for optimal health and to keep the excitement of meal time alive. I would say this is the number one reason I see dogs refusing their food.
There are legitimately some picky eaters out there. For those dogs, rotation is especially important. If your dog had a habit of refusing food while eating kibble and has started to refuse their raw diet after months of eating it with gusto, you may have a picky eater on your hands. Keep reading more tips on how to entice picky eaters.
Bowl eating is not for them
Our traditional way of feeding (aka bowl feeding) goes against our dogs natural instincts. It can frustrate them to the point of refusing to eat from the bowl all together. Even some of the popular slow feeders with high ridges can make meal time frustrating.
Common problems with bowl feeding and popular slow feeders:
- Peripheral vision is blocked by the sides of the bowl causing a need to protect their food
- Food clumps up against side of bowl or slow feeder making it hard to eat
- The small round space creates body tension and rigidity when eating
- Clumps of food inhibit a dogs natural tendency to sniff, hunt, explore their food
- High ridges of some slow feeders can be uncomfortable for dogs as they are constantly banging their nose against the ridges
Switching up how they are fed their food with something like the Mine Pet Platter might be a game changer for your dog. The Mine Pet Platter is designed to give your dog back control over meal time. It encourages sniffing, exploring, movement and the flat surface allows a more relaxed feeding environment.
Some pet parents also find that hand feeding helps their dogs. Play around with their feeding environment and see what might work best for them.
Too Many Snacks + Self Regulation
If your dog is getting additional snacks or bones during the day, it's possible they aren't hungry at meal time. Further to that, your dogs might be really good at self regulating. My dogs are NOT, but I know of some dogs who just won't eat when they are hungry. Assess their eating schedule and be open to adjusting it according to what they are telling you. It might help to keep a journal for this. Document when/what they are eating and when they are refusing. Make guesses, try out new arrangements and document as you go until you find a routine that works.
This might also be a good time to asses how much you are feeding. Is it possible that it's too much? Check out this blog post to assess if how much you are feeding your dog is right for them.
Healing from Illness
It's normal for some dogs to refuse their food after they've had some tummy issues. They might even associate their food with the feeling of being sick, even if it wasn't the cause. This is again where rotation can be important. A break from the food they were eating might be what they need.
Things like stress, a change in routine, a change of season, and change in activity levels can all play a role in a dogs appetite.
In the summer when the heat is at it's strongest, your dog might not feel like eating quite like they usually do. Usually during these days, your dog is laying around not doing much of anything. Between that and the heat, it's normal for a dog to refuse their food from time to time.
Has your dog been on any new medications? Some medications can alter your dogs appetite.
Some dogs are particular about texture and temperature. Some options are to feed partially frozen or at room temperature. I wouldn't recommend cooking, but you can add some hot water to see if it helps.
Add something with a harder texture like freeze dried raw food to add some crunch or some raw meaty bones like chicken necks or frozen herring. If hard textures are out, try blending the raw dog food further for a smoother consistency.
Continue to Refuse
As you can see, there are various reasons for a dog to refuse their food. For some people it will take some trial and error to determine the cause. It can be frustrating. But try not to stress as your dog will pick up on this energy and it might fuel their hunger strike further.
More actions to take if your dog continues to refuse:
- take them for a walk or play fetch before dinner to stimulate their appetite
- adjust mealtimes to once a day
- play around with feeding at different times during the day
- eliminate or cut back on treats
- change where you feed them. If you feed inside, maybe they might be more interested in the food outside or in another area of the house.
It's important to know that healthy adult dogs will not starve themselves. In fact, there are many that would say that fasting is a great way to create and maintain a healthy immune system. Some raw feeders will incorporate a fasting day weekly or monthly for this reason. Learn more about the benefits of fasting your dog.
NOTE: Do not fast dogs under 1 year old. Puppies require regular meals during the day, especially in the first 6 months of their lives.
Some dogs who are stubborn, will require consistency and persistence. Dogs can pick up on habits, so if you offer something else after they refused the food you gave them, they will learn they can train you instead of the other way around! Set down their food and walk away. Give them 10-20 minutes and if they don't eat it, pick up, put in the fridge and try again later. It may mean that they don't eat their dinner - and that's ok for adult dogs.
If you find you need some extra support, tripe is the number one thing that can entice a hesitant eater. If you haven't used it before, it is VERY smelly, but dogs love it enticing even the pickiest eaters. I would recommend mixing it in with the raw dog food. Our Doggy Moggy Beef and Advanced meal already have it included.
You can also add sardines or Green Eggs Green Lipped Mussel powder. Green lipped mussels are also great for joint health and are anti-inflammatory. Some people also have success with sprinkling freeze dried fish on top.
SHARE WITH THE COMMUNITY
I know there are other great tips people have found worked for their pups! We would love to hear your stories and what you did to help your dogs with their food; share them in the comments below!
Amanda Monsma (she/her)
Disclaimer: All information presented on this website is for informational and/or educational purposes only and based on our experience and those shared by our clients. These statements have not been evaluated by a veterinarian. This website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease and is not intended to be a substitute or replacement for any medical treatment. Please seek the advice of a holistic veterinarian for your dog’s specific health concerns.